Tag Archives: Toby Steinman

“WARNE MARSH: AN IMPROVISED LIFE”

In my childhood, my parents were towering figures — ever-present, vocal, impossible to ignore.  I was so busy interacting with them that daily routines drove out the possibility for deeper introspection about them.  I had only to venture out of my room and there they were.  Even if they were not physically present, they were my interior soundtrack — approving or disapproving, lecturing, reminding, explaining.

But they are now physically absent, although spiritually present.  As I age, I wish I could speak candidly with them, to ask the questions my younger self was unable to phrase and they might have been unwilling to answer.  My parents now seem characters in an unwritten novel, unpredictable, complicated beings I muse over. They have taken their secrets with them, but I imagine their spirits approving of my efforts to understand, my willingness to keep them alive in my thoughts.

I believe that other adult children feel as I do.

I have always been especially interested by the children of jazz musicians, whose parents must have been equally fascinating but perhaps more inscrutable, because of atypical nocturnal lives. So I am particularly intrigued to learn of a new documentary in the making, WARNE MARSH: AN IMPROVISED LIFE — not only because I admire the music that saxophonist Marsh created, but because the documentary is being made by his adult son, K.C. Marsh.

Details (and a short video) here.

I have some ambivalence about putting appeals-for-money into this blog, but I applaud K.C.’s efforts to make this film — both as a tribute to a musician who should be known more widely, and as his own effort to find out who his father was and is.  (So, yes, I have sent a little money of my own.)

Here is a sample of Warne’s music — he, Paul Chambers, string bass; Philly Joe Jones, drums, playing JUST SQUEEZE ME in 1958:

I look forward to K.C. Marsh’s attempt to understand both that floating sound and the man who made it.  Perhaps, as he comes to comprehend his father, it will help others of us unlock the lives of our parents as well. For their sake and for ours.

May your happiness increase!

“IT’S GOOD FOR YOU”: HOT JAZZ IN THE HEALTHY OPEN AIR with THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS and CLINT BAKER at the SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 26, 2012)

My mother used to gently urge me — “urge” is the nicest way of putting it — to go outside occasionally.  “Are you going to stay in your room with a book all day?  It’s so nice outside!”

This post’s for you, Mom — I made it out-of-doors at a jazz festival — the Sacramento Music Festival — and soaked up the sun, the Vitamin D, the sweet California air.

Of course, I didn’t notice much of those cosmic gifts, because I was busy feeling the good seismic disturbances that the Reynolds Brothers and Clint Baker were creating — that’s John on guitar, vocal, and whistling; Ralf on washboard and vocal; Marc Caparone on cornet and vocal; Katie Cavera on string bass and vocal; Clint Baker on trombone, clarinet, and occasional vocal (he had some laryngitis that weekend).

They began with their public profession of loving willingness from Alex Hill and perhaps Claude Hopkins, I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU.  John asserts it all so willingly; who would doubt him?

Marc sings about that naughty flirtatious COQUETTE, so tantalizing:

Ralf and John team up for their classic SADIE GREEN (The Vamp of New Orleans):

No one sings on MAHOGANY HALL STOMP (the lyrics would be about the fleshpots of Storyville) but the ghosts of Louis and Higgy certainly were enjoying the outdoors as well:

John, more plaintively this time, gives us the early Thirties version of the solitary lover, pale and wan, HUMMIN’ TO MYSELF:

The other side of the amorous spectrum — having one’s hands full of delights — is offered by the witty Miss Cavera in CHARLEY, MY BOY.  “Shivers of joy,” indeed:

My new quest.  Where or what or why is SAN?:

For Harold Arlen, Louis, and Jack, Marc lets us know he’s GOT A RIGHT TO SING THE BLUES:

I don’t know the source of STOMP STOMP! (is it Slim and Slam or the Cats and the Fiddle or a physical therapist’s command?) but it certainly made the cosmos move:

“Jack, you really come on!”  How true.  Even though no one in the band is named Jack.

“See, Mom, I went outside!  What?  Now you want me to clean my room . . . . ?”

May your happiness increase.

HONEY, DO!

Yet another excursion with Louis Armstrong — backwards to 1933 and 1966 or so and forwards to yesterday, July 7, 2012.

Step One: HONEY, DO! (lyrics by Andy Razaf, music by J.C. Johnson).  It’s customary to lament how poor Louis’ bands were, but this version is swinging away for the first part of the song.  And what Louis is doing, so joyously, is beyond description:

In 1966 — more or less — department stores in suburbia all had flourishing record departments.  I don’t know which store it was, but I remember as someone too young to drive a car going off with my mother to some store (more furniture than anything) for something she needed . . . and saying to her, “Ma, I’ll be right back,” running off to the record department, forsaking all others, heading to the Louis browser, snatching up this RCA Victor anthology with one side devoted to his recordings in the early Thirties, the other to his 1946-7 efforts, giving the cashier my $2.67 or an equivalent amount, and racing back to my mother (who had bought her pillows or bowls by that time) . . . I was guilty but exultant as she stood there — with that look of mild reproach and concern that I already knew too well: translation: “Did you have to spend your allowance on another record?”  Yes, Ma, I did.  I love you and you were right but now I have HONEY, DO! — nearly fifty years later, too.  A good return on $2.67.

Fast forward to yesterday, where the Beloved and I were digging Mal Sharpe and The Big Money in Jazz Band at the No Name Bar in Sausalito.  Circumstances prevented my video-recording, but I have a story for you all instead.  Superb music from Mal, Jim Gammon, trumpet; Rob Reich, accordion; Bill DeKuiper, guitar; Ari Munkres, string bass; Pete Magadini, drums.  A vigrously rocking band that also showed off deep subtlety — a version of I GOT IT BAD with its first chorus a duet for Jim (plunger-muted) and Ari.

Early in the final set, Mal (trusting the audience a bit) asked if anyone had a request.  STARDUST was suggested but politely turned aside for the moment, as was I DOUBLE DARE YOU.  But the latter suggestion turned Mal’s thoughts to Louis, and Pete suggested HONEY, DO! — which Jim took up with ease and pleasure.  The other members of the band weren’t entirely familiar with this obscure song, but they fell in gamely and the No Name Bar was rocking as the BMIJ turned the corner into the second chorus . . . and then Mal, bless him, put down his trombone and belted out the lyrics with skill and abandon.

I’m still grinning.  Maybe I can ask them to play it again when I have a video camera handy.  You should have been there!

May your happiness increase.